Joseph Smith Reads the Bible and attends School
According to Joseph Smith's own account, schooling was irregular because of economic pressures on the family: "as it required the exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the support of the Family therefore we were deprived of the bennifit of an education. Suffice it to say I was mearly instructid in reading, writing and the ground <rules> of Arithmatic which const[it]uted my whole literary acquirements." ("A History of the life of Joseph Smith Jr.," (1832) MS, 1, LDS Church History Library; cf. Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1989), 1:5. Orson Pratt wrote in 1840: "He could read without much difficulty, and write with a very imperfect hand; and had a very limited understanding of the ground rules of arithmetic" (Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions [Edinburgh: Printed by Ballantyne and Hughes, 1840], 3).
Isaac Butts attended school with young Joseph in the Palmyra area, as did Christopher M. Stafford,
who remembered Joseph as "a dull scholar." William Stafford's son, John Stafford, recalled, "Joe was quite illiterate. After they began to have
school at their house, he improved greatly. . . . they had school in their house, and studied the Bible."
(Statement of Isaac Butt, in Naked Truths About Mormonism 1 (Jan. 1888): 2, original publication in the Yale University Library; Statement of C. M. Stafford, ibid., 1 (Apr. 1888): 1; Saints' Herald 28 (June 1, 1881): 167, this material comes from the notes of the interviewer, William Kelley. His notes about John Stafford are "Joe was quite illit- [illiterate] until after they began to have school at their house - they had school at their house. and studied their Bible" (William H. Kelley Papers, Comminity of Christ Library-Archives, Independence, Missouri, hereafter RLDS archives).
I was born in the town of Charon [Sharon] in the <State> of Vermont North America on the twenty third day of December AD 1805 of goodly Parents who spared no pains to instructing me in <the> christian religion at the age of about ten years my Father Joseph Smith Siegnior moved to Palmyra Ontario County in the State of New York and being in indigent circumstances were obliged to labour hard for the support of a large Family having nine chilldren and as it required the exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the support of the Family therefore we were deprived of the bennifit of an education suffice it to say I was mearly instructid in reading writing and the ground <rules> of Arithmatic which const[it]uted my whole literary acquirements.
At about the age of twelve years my mind become seriously imprest with regard to the all importent concerns for the wellfare of my immortal Soul which led me to searching the scriptures believeing as I was taught, that they contained the word of God thus applying myself to them and my intimate acquaintance with those different denominations led me to marvel exce[e]dingly for I discovered that <they did not> of adorn their profession by a holy walk and Godly conversation agreeable to what I found contained in that sacred depository this was a grief to my Soul
thus from the age of twelve years to fifteen I pondered many things in my heart concerning the sittuation of the world of mankind the contentions and divi[si]ons the wicke[d]ness and abominations and the darkness which pervaded the minds of mankind my mind become exce[e]dingly distressed for I become convicted of my sins and by searching the scriptures I found that <mankind> did not come unto the Lord but that they had apostatised from the true and liveing faith and there was no society or denomination that built upon the gospel of Jesus Christ as recorded in the new testament and I felt to mourn for my own sins and for the sins of the world
for I learned in the scriptures that God was the same yesterday to day and forever("A History of the life of Joseph Smith Jr.," (1832) MS, 1, LDS Church History Library)
In 1826 Joseph Smith mentioned that he "had been employed by said Stowel[l] on his farm, and going to school." (Charles Marshall, "The Original Prophet. By a Visitor to Salt Lake City," Fraser's Magazine 7 [Feb. 1873]:229-30; London, England)
H. Grant Vest explained in his comparison of the Bible in the Book of Mormon:
Any consideration of these facts admit of but one conclusion, namely, that the quotations of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon which are identical, or nearly so, with their parallels in the Authorized Version of the Bible were copied from that text. ("The Problem of Isaiah in the Book of Mormon," thesis, Brigham Young University, 1938, p. 3.)
Commencing in June 1830 Joseph Smith worked on revising the Bible working on it off and on for a few years.
Joseph Smith, Jr. spent time during 1830-33 correcting the KJV Bible. This work is known as the Inspired Version, Joseph Smith Revision, or the Joseph Smith Translation (JST). The JST is Joseph Smith's doctrinal correction ("translation") of the Old and New Testaments. It does not restore the Hebrew or Greek biblical text. Smith's 1828 King James text of the Bible was used for text-triggered new revelation. This work reflects what Joseph Smith considered problems in the English text of the KJV. The JST is one revision among many in the 19th century. What is different is the text he added during the dictation process. The text has been published only in the English language by the RLDS church.
From an examination of the manuscripts it is apparent that the handwritten corrections are not always complete. Not all of the notations on the manuscript pages are included in the printed edition. It appears that the Bible was read and Joseph Smith dictated the text or corrections to his scribe. In a few places Smith wrote the text himself. Sometimes italic words in the KJV Bible were crossed out, meaning they should be omitted. Many of the Hebrew Scriptures (commonly called the Old Testament) were considered "correct."
The following are examples of the number of chapters considered correct by Joseph Smith:
Genesis: 13 out of 50 chapters
Exodus: 19 out of 40 chapters
Leviticus: 24 out of 27 chapters
Numbers: 34 out of 36 chapters
Deuteronomy: 30 out of 34 chapters
Joshua: 23 out of 24 chapters
Judges: 20 out of 21 chapters
Ruth: "The Book of Ruth is all correct"
1 Samuel: 26 out of 31 chapters
2 Samuel: 22 out of 24 chapters
1 Kings: 16 out of 22 chapters
2 Kings: 23 out of 25 chapters
1 Chronicles: 27 out of 29 chapters
2 Chronicles: 29 out of 36 chapters
Ezra: 10 out of 10 chapters
Nehemiah: 10 out of 13 chapters
Esther: 10 out of 10 chapters
Job: 40 out of 42 chapters
Note: From Psalm through Malachi 263 chapters were not listed on the manuscript pages.
Psalm: 89 chapters not listed in manuscript of 150 chapters; 10 chapters listed correct
Proverbs: 28 chapters not listed in manuscript of 31 chapters
Ecclesiastes: has marking in Bible but not listed in manuscript
Song of Solomon: "The Songs of Solomon are not Inspired writings"
Isaiah: 28 chapters not listed in manuscript of 66 chapters; 1 chapter listed correct
Jeremiah: 33 chapters not listed in manuscript of 52 chapters; 4 chapters listed correct
Lamentations: "The Lamentations of Jeremiah is Correct"
Ezekiel: 28 chapters not listed in manuscript of 48 chapters
Daniel: 11 chapters not listed in manuscript of 12 chapters
Hosea: 13 chapters not listed in manuscript of 14 chapters
Joel: 1 chapter not listed in manuscript of 3 chapters
Amos: 6 chapters not listed in manuscript of 9 chapters
Jonah: 3 chapters not listed in manuscript of 4 chapters
Zechariah: 11 chapters not listed in manuscript of 14 chapters
The New Testament has more extensive revisions so there are less chapters that were considered correct.. The following are numbers of correct chapters:
John: chapters 15, 17-18, 21 are correct
Acts: 9 out of 28 chapters
1 Corinthians: 1 out of 16 chapters
2 Corinthians 3 out of 13 chapters
Galatians: 2 out of 6 chapters
Ephesians: 2 out of 6 chapters
Colossians: 1 out of 4 chapters
1 Thessalonians: 1 out of 5 chapters
2 Thessalonians: 1 out of 3 chapters
Titus: 1 out of 3 chapters
James: 2 out of 5 chapters
2 John: 1 out of 1 correct
3 John: 1 out of 1 correct
Revelation: 4 out of 22 chapters